Thursday, February 16, 2006

Math needs new image

The Si Valley paper says:
The Bush Administration wants to make math and science cool.

Carlos Gutierrez, U.S. Commerce Secretary, visiting Silicon Valley and Stanford University on Wednesday, said that along with President Bush's recently announced American Competitiveness Initiative, there needs to be a change in American culture -- to embrace inventors and scientists, in the same way Americans worship athletes or pop stars.

Gutierrez was in the valley to promote the competitiveness initiative, a 10-year, $136 billion program. Bush unveiled the plan in his State of the Union address last month. It calls for a doubling in federal funding for basic research in physical sciences, money for improving math and science education in elementary and secondary schools, and a permanent extension of the research and development tax credits for companies.

The proposal also includes starting a "Math Now" program to promote math among elementary and middle school students.
Meanwhile, on the op-ed page in the same paper, Richard Cohen says:
I confess to be one of those people who hate math. I can do my basic arithmetic all right (although not percentages) but I flunked algebra (once), ...

Sooner or later someone's going to tell you that algebra teaches reasoning. This is a lie propagated by, among others, algebra teachers. Writing is the highest form of reasoning. This is a fact. Algebra is not. The proof of this, Gabriela, is all the people in my high school who were whizzes at math but did not know a thing about history and could not write a readable English sentence. I can cite Shelly, whose last name will not be mentioned, who aced algebra but when called to the board in geography class, located the Sahara Desert right where the Gobi usually is. She was off by a whole continent.
Apparently Cohen never learned what a proof is, as getting a location wrong says nothing about reasoning.

I've always wondered how Cohen could make such idiotic argument. His columns are widely published, and he appears on TV a lot. And yet, I don't think that I've ever heard him give a well-reasoned argument. His column explains a lot.

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